AIESEC Toronto

Live the Experience

Month: November 2013 (page 2 of 2)

Danielle Phan’s Exchange to Taiwan!

“Interning abroad not only gave me an insight of a new culture, but it also opened great wanderlust opportunities and helped me gained countless of international friends. AIESEC can make it happen!”


This week I had a chance to meet with Danielle Phan and ask about her recent AIESEC exchange experience. It was a great pleasure hearing about her exciting stories learning about various cultural differences.

Danielle went on an exchange through the Global Community Development Program (GCDP) to teach English at Chongming Elementary School in Taiwan for two months during the past summer. She was influenced by Cindy Lou, AIESEC Toronto’s current VP for Outgoing exchange at the University of Toronto’s Scarborough Campus (UTSC), and her EP manager, Lakshana Kannan. As well as this, the efficiency and professionalism in AIESEC Taiwan’s responses strengthened Danielle’s decision to go on exchange. Danielle went to Taiwan with passion and will for independence, and she came back with gratitude and a different worldview.

Danielle taught English to children from grades 4 to 6. Although the language barrier created difficulties in communication, it did not stop all the fun times Danielle had with the students. They used Google Translator as a tool, and usually spent hours in laughter trying to figure out the correct translation by putting together all the awkwardly-worded phrases. Many students were afraid to speak in English during the first week of classes but as a teacher, Danielle encouraged students to speak English and to not be afraid of mistakes. Danielle contributed her Canadian values of happiness and acceptance into the disciplined Taiwanese school. Meanwhile, she learned about Taiwanese culture and language through her interactions with the students.

Taiwanese education system is very sheltered as parents and teachers restrict children to do the “right” thing based on what they believe benefit students, while creativity and thinking outside of the box is not encouraged. As the education system is test-oriented, students tend to spend a lot of time studying and many would go to “cram” schools after school. Many schools are science and math focused, and the materials they learn as elementary students are much deeper than the ones in Canada. Danielle found that many teachers were curious about the Danielle3education system in Canada. Some said they like the western style of teaching better, but they were unsure of how to implement it in Taiwan.

The teachers at the school were very friendly. They welcomed Danielle to come over to their houses, meet their families, and share their cultures. They were very open to Danielle and showed her way around Taiwan as locals. Even though her host mother was initially very busy, Danielle had the opportunity to spend time with many families – hang out with children of the teachers, and go to traditional occasions with the mothers. She learned about the different background and experiences of these teachers and of their children. Danielle had a lot of fun travelling to Taipei (Taiwan’s business and entertainment center), going shopping and clubbing, dinning at restaurants, etc. The food in Taiwan was very good and also very convenient.

It was after some time, Danielle’s host mother opened up to her. Through conversations, they shared personal stories and felt like they knew each other from a past life. As a very successful businesswoman, and a single mother of two, Danielle describes her as a very smart, strong, and independent person. It was through her experience, Danielle realized how powerful and inspiring Taiwanese women can be.

Danielle4Many people were met, many things happened, and many stories were told within those short two months. After coming back to Canada, Danielle experienced a reverse culture shock. She felt she had a new personality and a new perspective of the world. Because of her experience in Taiwan and her impact on others of a different culture, she realized what she can do to become a better person.

Danielle joined AIESEC Toronto OGX this September to help other exchange participants after her GCDP in Taiwan.

This is from Danielle:

Taiwan, 2013, AIESEC 2013

“I can honestly say that I’ve learned so much going on an exchange. I urge all to go on an exchange sometimes in this lifetime of theirs. It’s an experience you’ll never forget. It does change you in some magically way. The people I’ve met on this trip will forever be apart of me; for they took the time to get to know me, and willingly, eagerly, and kindly welcomed me into their family and culture. My trip to Taiwan taught me a new lifestyle of independence, and cultural awareness. The experience has instilled in me the idea of open mindedness and acceptance in regards to other cultures. My overall experience has gain not only respect for myself, but respect of others. I return with stories and pictures, and reverse cultural shock. It was a grand and memorable 2 months of my life in a beautiful culture. It’s surreal what AIESEC did to me.

Yes, I took a lot of pictures and videos; but it was all to document my experience and show you all, hoping that one day you can make your mark in the world like I did 🙂 ♥
You can check out Danielle’s Vlogs here:


The school also wrote a blog to comment on Danielle’s experience in Taiwan. They were glad Danielle came to bring a different perspective to their classrooms, and they appreciated this kind of intercultural learning experience. The story was published in a Taiwanese newspaper:

And there is much more:

By: Cathryn Wang

Kimberley Moore’s Exchange in Brazil!

Kimberley Moore went on a GDCP in Recife, Brazil. For three months, she worked with Lar Fabiano De Cristo, a nation-wide NGO in Brazil which provides community maternal care, childcare, meals, programming and classes in disadvantaged areas throughout Brazil.

With Lar Fabiano De Cristo, Kimberley helped to create and conduct college/university prep seminars on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals to young people in the community. She also helped teach basic English language skills to children.

What was an average day like during your GDCP?
My average work day involved waking up at 6 am to catch a 6:30 bus for work. My work placement was on the other side of the city, which meant I had to take public transit (bus) for about an hour and a half. The buses were always beyond crowded and Recife traffic was insane but the people were so gracious. It is customary to offer to hold people’s bags if they are standing and you have a seat so things like that made hard transport days a lot easier. I got to work and taught seminars on the millennium development goals from about 8 to 5 with an hour lunch break. My workplace provided food, and lunchtime was one of the best opportunities to bond with both the kids and fellow staff (plus continue to practice my Portuguese). Most of my students were teenagers but many of the younger kids in the centre sat in on classes just to interact with us and get a taste of something new and different. After work I would usually be beyond drained but took time to meet with local university students and other interns for fun.

On days off when I was not completely drained from work, I would walk to the beach and meet up with friends or visit different parts of the city. There was always somewhere to go at night whether it was free live music, dancing, parties, clubs or bar hopping (which was fun even though I do not drink). On weekends I would venture out to different parts of Brazil or spend time with my amazing host family. Toward the end I tried to spend as much time out as possible which often meant coming home from work at about 7pm, eating, having a quick nap, then leaving at 12 am for a party and staying out until sunrise.


What was the biggest challenge you faced in Recife?
There were many challenges, each different but all were learning experiences. Of course being away from home was hard at first but I ended up bonding so much more with my host family and friends because of it.

Having to work and “play” with people who were ignorant about my culture was also pretty stressful. Sometimes were would be out having a good time and I would hear some of the most ignorant hurtful things about my people/culture from people who called themselves my friends.

The hardest day was the day I went out to work in the middle of a flood that shut the city down. I ended up stranded, wading across flooded streets (up to my waist in black water) swimming with bugs (gross), and I had to find my way back home from across town without buses or taxis. I did it!

What was the most enjoyable part of your experience?
The most enjoyable part was getting to know new people and developing a whole new family all of whom were instrumental in forcing me to step out of my comfort zone. The moments when they challenged and pushed me often ended up being my most treasured. One of these moments ended up being my fondest of the exchange. One night I was very tired after work and I really did not want to go out but the whole team was going to a club (I usually hate clubbing). I did not want to go but I did, and I got there by myself at about 1am. I literally danced until dawn with friends and complete strangers. After, we walked to the beach to watch the sunrise and ended up swimming fully clothed (club makeup and all) in shark-infested waters. It was literally the most free and beautiful moment of my life. Afterwards, I walked home dripping wet shamelessly, without a care in the world.


What did you gain from your GDCP experience and how has it influenced your everyday life?
I think two biggest things I took away were my appreciation for human kindness and the importance of challenging yourself. When I first got there I was terrified and lonely but I never shed a tear. The first time I cried was my last day in Brazil, in the airport when I had to say goodbye to my host family. I grew to love them so much and I their kindness literally brought me to tears. The spirit of my students and friends (I keep in touch with both groups) also inspired me. The students were always eager to learn as much as they could from us and sometimes gestures as small as a dance, hug or smile made them so happy and grateful. When times were more challenging, I really had to push myself.

Looking back, I am so much stronger, and braver after knowing that I was able to overcome everything I went through. Now, I find ways to see the good in people no matter what because I know how powerful love can be. I never limit myself or fall back when something or someone challenges me because I know what I am capable of accomplishing.

Do you have any advice for people who are considering to take part in an exchange with AIESEC?
I would tell people to just dive in. Yes, there will be challenges and you will miss home. You will definitely have moments of complete doubt. But immerse yourself in the culture, work, and people you have around you. This is how you get the most out of your exchange. Try to live in the moment. Remember this is literally a once in a lifetime opportunity and you owe it to yourself to grow as much as you possibly can. Remember there is a whole world full of amazing people with stunningly beautiful spirits and each has a story. This is your chance to get out there and start getting to know the world you live in!


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